Two major development finance companies involved in the construction of the controversial Agua Zarca dam announced they would suspend activities in response to the violence against activists in Honduras, in the wake of two new shootings. An international solidarity mission also arrived in Honduras today, and will hold a press conference tomorrow.
Activists and indigenous community leaders attacked
Yesterday, two activists were shot in separate incidents, following attacks earlier this month.
Nelson Garcia was a member of the organization Berta Cáceres co-founded (COPINH). He was reportedly shot four times at his home. Nelson was working with a community that faced evictions on 15 March, the day he was murdered.
Earlier this month, the murder of Goldman Environmental Prize winner Berta Cáceres – on the night of March 2nd in her home – sparked worldwide expressions of outrage. Cáceres dedicated much of her life to rallying her fellow indigenous Lenca people against destructive development projects, including the Agua Zarca dam. Her family has been critical of the government’s investigation.
Gustavo Castro, director of Friends of the Earth Mexico (Otros Mundos) went to Honduras take part in the struggle against the Agua Zarca dam. He was wounded in the same attack as Berta Cáceres, and left for dead. As a witness to the murder, we feel it is very dangerous for him to be in Honduras. The government is preventing him from leaving the country, and he has taken sanctuary in the Mexican embassy.
According to a Global Witness report, Honduras is the most dangerous place in the world for environmental activists.
“We hold the government of Honduras accountable for failing, or being unwilling to protect its citizens,” said Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International. “It’s past time that the government act to protect the activists and indigenous communities suffering attacks for defending nature and human rights.”
Friends of the Earth International created a Petition to
Development finance companies react to bloodshed
Following the recent bloodshed, both the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (Finnfund) have said they are suspending their financing for their projects in Honduras, including the Agua Zarca dam.
“FMO, one of the main financiers of Agua Zarca project, finally declared it is suspending all its activities and disbursements to projects in Honduras, and Finnfund has taken similar actions,” said Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth International Economic Justice International Program Coordinator. “We demand these financiers pull out permanently, as COPINH has been demanding for a long time.”
Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering and construction company, cited conflicts between the company (DESA) and local communities for leaving the project in 2013.
Representatives of social networks from different regions of the world will travel to Honduras today as part of the International Mission “Justice for Berta Cáceres”.
The mission is organised by the Honduran organisation Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) – from the National Network of Human Rights defenders in Honduras – and individuals, collectives and organisations making up an international network of solidarity with the people of Honduras.
The mission demands an impartial investigation of the brutal assassination of the indigenous Lenca leader Berta Cáceres, on the 3rd of March.
The mission will coincide with a number of mass demonstrations, protests and other actions by Honduran civil society in the coming three days. The protests will condemn the assassination of Berta Cáceres and show solidarity with Gustavo Castro, who was injured in the attack against Berta, as well as other at risk activists. Gustavo has been denied permission to leave Honduras, despite cooperating with the police investigation and indicating his willingness to answer any further questions from Mexico.
Two weeks after the assassination of Lenca Berta Cáceres, Noé García – another leader of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) – was murdered on March 15th in the community of Río Chiquito (Cortés). This new aggression against a human, indigenous and environment rights defender took place following the violent eviction of 150 Lenca families of the COPINH in Río Lindo (Cortés) by the Cobras Special Commandos of the Military Police. This is not an isolated incident; it is part of the daily systematic violation of human rights within a global framework that protects the interests of transnational corporations.
Berta Cáceres was part of the resistance against the Agua Zarca project, a dam project developed in cooperation with European and US finance institutions: The German giant Voith Siembes, the FMO (Netherlands Development Finance Company), Finnfund (Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation), and the CABEI (Central American Bank for Economic Integration). Facing growing pressure from international civil society, the FMO has decided to suspend all its operations in Honduras, including its participation in the “Agua Zarca” dam. COPINH has demanded the full withdrawal of all the corporations and financiers from Lenca territories.
The International Mission expects to meet with the highest authorities of the country to demand an impartial investigation of the assassination of Berta Cáceres. With the participation of an International Commission of Inquiry it will demand the immediate release of the Mexican Gustavo Castro, guarantees for his security and his return to Mexico.
The mission assumes the demands of the family of Berta Cáceres and the COPINH as its own, which includes the immediate and definitive suspension of the Agua Zarca project and the cancellation of all concessions to extractivist projects in the Lenca territories.
The delegation includes the following people:
Miguel Urbán Crespo – Europe, Member of the European Parliament by PODEMOS – European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)
Nora Cortiñas – Argentina, Madre de Plaza de Mayo-Founder Line
Pedro Arrojo – Spain, Member of the Spanish Parliament (PODEMOS)
José Olvera – México, UNT-CSA México, National Union of Workers / Trade Union Confederation of the Americas
Beverly Keene – Argentina, Coordinator Dialogue 2000-Jubileo Sur Argentina, member of the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity
Mirna Perla Jiménez – El Salvador, former magistrate Supreme Court of Justicia in El Salvador
Brian Finnegan – United States, AFL/CIO – CSA. American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
Zulma Larin – El Salvador, Coordinator Red de Ambientalistas Comunitarios y Coordinación de la Alianza por la Gobernabilidad y la Justicia
Natalia Atz Sunuc – Guatemala, Friends of the Earth Latin American and the Caribbean (ATALC)
Gustavo Lozano – México, Scholar and Lawyer of the social movements coalition for the water and the land (MAPDER and REMA) in cooperation with the Central American movement.
Tom Kucharz – Spain, Political advisor to the PODEMOS delegation in the European Parliament, member of the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and stop Impunity.
Miguel Ángel de los Santos – México, Lawyer of the Iberoamerican networks of magistrates.
The first press conference of the International Mission will take place in Tegucigalpa on Thursday 17 of March .