COPINH-leader: “Our communities are terrified”
Last week, Global Witness published 'Honduras: the deadliest place to defend the planet'. This shocking report clearly shows the worrying situation of human rights in Honduras and backs the demand of Both ENDS and partner COPINH: FMO must divest from the Agua Zarca dam.
The report states that since the military coup in 2009, no less than 123 people have been killed who protested against projects like dams, mines, logging orlarge-scale agriculture. One of the examples in the report is the Agua Zarca dam. Since 2013, 6 members of the indigenous organization COPINH, who are opposing the dam, have been murdered. Amongst them their leader Berta Cáceres.
COPINH: fighting against huge financial interests
Both ENDS spoke with Tomas Gomez Membreño, Berta's successor, about the current situation of COPINH: "Our situation is very difficult, and has become worse since the murdering of Berta. The government and the company behind Agua Zarca, DESA, are campaigning against us in the media. We are being criminalized and falsely accused of drug trafficking. All this happens to defend the financial interests of politicians and the company."
The Global Witness report uncovers the connections between the threats and the violence against human rights and environment defenders and the Honduran elites. In this context of violence, intimidation and huge financial interests, it is difficult for COPINH to have any influence on what's happening on their lands. Gomez Membreño: "Our politicians don't care about our suggestions for the development of our communities, because they are at the expense of the gains of the private companies. Because these companies pay for the election campaigns of the politicians, the politicians listen only to the demands of the companies."
Organisations like COPINH have a totally different vision about what's 'development'. "The politicians and companies think privatising the river is development. They want to redirect the river to generate power. This will kill the animals in the river. Furthermore, the power will be used for activities like mining, that demolish even more nature and accelerate climate change on a global level!
For us, development is: access to water and land, producing our own foods. We defend nature: not only the land, the water and the air, but also our culture, our cosmovision and our identity. We are fighting for the recognition of our claims to our own territory."
Stop the investments in Honduras
Global Witness has a clear recommendation in their report: the Agua Zarca project must be cancelled and international investors have to divest from it. An important investor is the Dutch development bank FMO. COPINH and Both ENDS have been calling FMO to draw back from the project for a year.
Gomez Membreño: "FMO has made a mistake: not only in the Agua Zarca case but for example also in the Barro Blanco project in Panama. They invested in projects where corporate interests are leading, and the wishes and the autonomy of indigenous peoples are not taken into account. Governments should tell the banks to stop their investments in countries with indigenous peoples when the mechanisms for Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC*) are not in place. Our territory is being demolished and the indigenous peoples are being destroyed. Our communities are terrified."
* FPIC is an international standard. It means that local communities have a say in projects conducted in their own territories, without being put under pressure (free), before the projects begin (prior) and on the basis of correct information (informed).
• Global Witness report: Honduras: the deadliest place to defend the planet
• 30 September 2016: New report: lenders should exit from Agua Zarca project
• 13 May 2016: Arrest of DESA staff member for murder of Berta Cáceres seems last straw for FMO
• 21 April 2016: Honduran Indigenous activists visit Europe to call for action
• 16 March 2016: FMO's suspension of activities in Honduras is just a first step
• 5 March 2016: Brave human rights defender Berta Cáceres murdered
• Also read the story about Barro Blanco in Panama
Read more about this subject
Indigenous Hondurans are resisting the construction of the Agua Zarca hydrodam. Their fight has cost several lives, including that of Berta Cáceres. After considerable public pressure, Dutch development bank FMO withdrew from the project.
News / 6 March 2018
On Friday, March 2, the director of DESA, David Castillo, was arrested in Honduras on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Berta Cáceres, exactly 2 years ago. The Honduran government refused for a long time to not only detect the actual murderers, but also the intellectual authors of the murder of Cáceres.
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Both ENDS and SOMO welcome the announcement done today by the Dutch and Finnish development banks, FMO and FinnFund, to exit the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Honduras. Conflict about the project has led to violence in the region, including the murder of three leaders who opposed the project. In March 2016, renowned human rights defender Berta Caceres was murdered for opposing this project in indigenous Lenca territory.
News / 16 December 2019
Earlier this month, the seven men found guilty of the murder of Berta Cáceres were sentenced to jail for periods between 30 and 50 years. The court confirmed its opinion that Berta Cáceres was murdered for her role in defending the rights of the indigenous Lenca communities.
News / 2 March 2017
Today, it is exactly one year ago that Berta Cáceres was brutally murdered in her home in Honduras. Cáceres was a globally known human rights defender and coordinator of the indigenous Lenca organisation COPINH. The murder of Berta is closely related to her protest against the Agua Zarca dam, a hydroelectric project financed partially by the Dutch development bank FMO.
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Today, three representatives of the Honduran indigenous people's organisation COPINH, together with the family of environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in March 2016, announced that they are preparing to press charges against the Dutch development bank FMO. COPINH accuses the FMO of complicity in human rights violations in connection with the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project.
News / 20 October 2016
This week, Laura Zuniga Cáceres, daughter of Berta Cáceres*, visits the Netherlands. She will talk with the directors of the involved departments of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in a colloquium about indigenous right of Leiden University and meet with several Dutch NGO's. Both ENDS asked this brave young woman about the situation in Honduras and her motivation to continue her mother's work.
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News / 1 December 2018
On Thursday, November 29, seven suspects of the murder of Berta Cáceres (in March 2016) were found guilty. Members of the indigenous human rights organisation COPINH, of which Cáceres was the leader, and close relatives of Cáceres herself see the ruling as the first step towards justice for her murder and the recognition that the company DESA is co-responsible for this. They also point out, however, that the process was permeated with corruption, intimidation and other abuses from the very beginning, and that the masterminds behind the murder are still walking around freely.
Together with civil society organisations from all over the world, the Fair Green and Global (FGG) Alliance aims for socially just, inclusive and environmentally sustainable societies in the Netherlands and the Global South.
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