Laura Cáceres: “By continuing my mother’s fight, I continue the defense of life”
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.
What is happening now in Honduras?
We are worried very much about everything that's happening in Honduras. The threats have increased after my mother was murdered, and the juridical process doesn't advance. There is impunity. And especially activists who are not internationally famous are very much threatened. There is violence against the communities, assaults of other members of COPINH, like our current coordinator this week.
How has the human rights situation changed in the last months?
We now see a militarization of society. Social movements are being criminalized and social protest can be persecuted by law. Also, we have taken a huge step back in history regarding the international FPIC-principles that need to be followed by companies. Although companies still have to consult indigenous communities when they want to execute projects in their areas, the government can overrule their voices and has the last say.
Are there any new developments around Agua Zarca?
Yes, the project continues. And in order to influence public opinion about this project, a huge media campaign has been set up to improve the image of DESA [the company building Agua Zarca] and wash away their blame.
What is your role within COPINH?
I was raised within COPINH, I have learned all my life to incorporate this organization, to represent it, it's my mother's legacy. By continuing her fight, I continue the defense of life, of the earth, of women, of our territory and of the indigenous peoples.
What is it like to do so under the continuous threat?
It is difficult for everyone to live in such a violent society. It's a commitment, but at the same time it is also satisfactory to participate in such an important struggle. Besides, my mother has always taught me to live this way.
What is your message to the people in the Netherlands?
First of all, I would like to ask FMO to take their responsibility. Their financial participation in a criminal project like Agua Zarca makes them responsible for the situation of the Lenca people.
But also, I would like to tell the people in the Netherlands that part of the taxes they pay is used for a criminal project. We are defending life there and we want you all to see what's happening to us.
*Berta Cáceres was the leading force behind the COPINH, a network of Honduran civil society organisations standing up for the rights of indigenous communities. She led the opposition of the indigenous Lenca people against the Agua Zarca dam. Berta was murdered on March 3rd 2016.
Also read previous news about Berta Cáceres and Agua Zarca:
- 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
For more information
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 July 2017
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 / 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.
News / 2 March 2021
Today it is 5 years ago that Berta Cáceres was shot in haar home in La Esperanza, Honduras, for defending the rights of indigenous people. The leader of indigenous organisation COPINH resisted the Agua-Zarca hydropower dam that was planned to be build in indigenous territory. The actual murderers have been convicted, but not so the intellectual authors of the murders.
News / 7 February 2017
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.
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.
News / 10 July 2020
Dutch development bank FMO is considering investing in the controversial Ficohsa bank in Honduras. The bank has close ties with the elite in Honduras, which holds considerable power in politics, the (para)military and the business community. Last Wednesday, a number of Honduran organisations, including the indigenous organisation COPINH – whose leader Berta Cáceres was murdered in 2016 – sent a letter to the FMO management. The letter, signed by forty organisations including Both ENDS, calls on FMO not to do business with this bank.
The Barro Blanco dam project in Panama, which has Dutch financial support, is causing indigenous lands to disappear under water. Both ENDS is working to protect the rights of indigenous communities living near the dam.
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.
External link / 31 May 2018
Sometimes things must go terribly wrong before big players start to move. In March 2016, Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was murdered because of her leading role in the protests against the Agua Zarca hydro dam, co-financed by the Dutch FMO. One and a half year later, FMO changed their policies to prevent such events in the future.
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.
News / 9 December 2016
As we celebrate both the 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (December 4th) and Human Rights Day (December 10th), Both ENDS joins with communities and civil society groups around the world to call on development finance institutions, governments, and businesses to take 3 steps to stand up for Human Rights in development.
News / 20 September 2019
We are shocked and alarmed by the news of a planned raid into the headquarters of an environmental organisation in the Philippines. Although the raid has not materialised until now, we are deeply concerned for their wellbeing.
News / 28 September 2018
We congratulate Joan Carling, member of the permanent commission on indigenous peoples of the UN, for having received the Lifetime Achievement Award as 'Champion of the Earth' by the UN Environment! This is the UN's highest environmental honor, given to six of the world's most outstanding environmental change makers once a year.
News / 18 September 2020
On September 16, 9 members of the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign in Uganda have been arrested. One of them works for AFIEGO, a partner organization of Both ENDS. The members of the Save Bugoma Forest campaign were in the Hoima province to take part in a peaceful demonstration aimed at stopping the destruction of Bugoma forest for sugarcane growing and oil activities.
News / 12 December 2017
We are outraged and saddened to hear that Hernán Bedoya, a brave Colombian community leader and human rights defender, has been brutally murdered. After numerous threats to his life and despite all the best efforts of local groups to provide him with protection (such as bullet proof vests, cell phone etc.) he was shot dead by paramilitaries last Friday the 8th of December, while riding home on his horse.
External link / 10 December 2018
An Open Letter to States and Development Financiers on the need to ensure that development interventions support the realization of human rights, safeguard human rights defenders and guarantee meaningful public participation
News / 14 March 2018
We are shocked and alarmed by the news that the Philippine government has declared a list of 600 people to be communist terrorists. On the list are mostly indigenous leaders, environmental activists and human rights defenders. Among them are some of our partners, and we are deeply worried about them and the other people on this list.
News / 31 October 2019
Earlier this month, we learned that Golfrid Siregar, an Indonesian environmental lawyer working for our partner organisation WALHI died under suspicious circumstances. We call for a thorough and transparent investigation and have brought the case to the attention of the Indonesian embassy in The Hague and to the Netherlands' embassy in Jakarta.
Covering an area of 5.5 million km², the Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world. At least 12% of the forest has been lost in the last decades, and deforestation is still continuing at a rapid pace. Illegal logging, land grabbing and intimidation for agriculture, animal husbandry and mining are daily business, and impunity rules. Recent developments, such as the election of the new Bolsonaro government in Brazil, make the future of the Amazon region and the people living there even more uncertain than it already was.